PM’s invitation for river trip to Calcutta premature

Injina Panthi / December 19, 2018

Prime Minister Oli speaking in Kathmandu on June 28, 2018.                         Photo:

Prime Minister KP Oli, speaking at a function organized by Madan Bhandari Foundation in Kathmandu on June 28, 2018, said:

“I invite you all to sail to Calcutta on a steamer by December 30, 2018 or December 31 at the latest.”

The prime minister had made the statement amid plans by Nepal to develop inland waterways and link them with Indian waterways.

South Asia Check has examined whether people should take the prime minister’s invitation seriously or not.

The first meeting on Inland Waterways Connectivity between Nepal and India was held in Kathmandu on July 15-16 of 2018. The Indian delegation led by Mr Pravir Pandey, vice chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India and Nepali delegation team led by Madhav Belbase, joint secretary at Water and Energy Commission Secretariat, had discussed various dimensions and possibilities of Inland Waterways connectivity between Nepal and India. In that particular meeting, both sides agreed that Technical Scoping Missions (TSM) from both sides would visit each other’s countries for on-site assessments.

As per the agreement, the TSM from Nepal visited India from September 17-21, 2018. The TSM visited Varanasi, Kolkata Port and Garden Reach jetty to study the technical aspects of Inland Waterways. The TSM from India will visit Nepal sometime in January 2019 to undertake the on-site assessment of the Koshi and Narayani rivers.

According to Joint Secretary Madhav Belbase, Inland Waterways Connectivity (IWC) project is in the preliminary stages. Currently, they are preparing the detailed project report. Any progress on the project depends on the cooperation and engagement from the Indian side, so it is difficult to say when will the project be completed, according to Belbase.

Therefore, the prime minister’s invitation now looks highly premature.

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